Seeking a second term in the governor’s mansion but facing a tight race to keep his job, incumbent Gov. Dannel Malloy forcefully defended his record Tuesday night in the second major televised debate with Republican challenger Tom Foley.
The two gubernatorial candidates engaged in an hour-long debate at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, with Foley issuing indictments of the governor’s policies on topics ranging from taxes to crime. While some of his constituents criticize Malloy for lacking charisma, the incumbent delivered impassioned arguments defending his decisions of the past four years. Despite attacks from Foley for pursuing a decidedly liberal policy agenda, Malloy stood by three of his signature legislative achievements — post-Newtown gun control legislation, a minimum wage hike and the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act in the state.
“We are investing in the future,” Malloy said. “Yes we have made sacrifices and yes it’s been hard, but we are making progress.”
Malloy added that reductions in the state deficit were not made at the expense of state employees.
Foley, a Greenwich businessman and former Ambassador to Ireland who lost to Malloy in a 2010 bid for the governor’s spot, derided the picture of progress that the governor presented.
“The governor, sometimes I wonder if he’s living in the same state as the people I’m talking to,” said Foley. “This governor has no idea how upset people are in these communities.”
Foley primarily attacked Malloy for raising state taxes by $1.5 billion, calling it “the largest tax increase in state history.” He also hit the governor on crime in cities like New Haven and Bridgeport, as well as tax credits for corporations which Foley said would not deliver good jobs for state residents.
Malloy did not yield an inch, continually asserting that he is proud of his record.
The race is one of this year’s most closely watched gubernatorial races, with most political analysts calling it a toss-up. A reliable poll has not been conducted since early September, when Quinnipiac gave Foley a six point lead. Malloy beat Foley by fewer than 7,000 votes of over a million cast in 2010.
Gary Rose, Chairman of Sacred Heart University’s Department of Government and Politics, characterized polls as mostly anti-Malloy as opposed to pro-Foley.
However, Rose said Foley would have to do more than ride anti-Malloy sentiment to the finish line, adding that Foley needs a vision of this own.
“That’s what’s been missing on his side — a vision,” Rose said.
Foley also laid out a few of his own policy proposals at the debate, including a freeze in state spending for two years and a reduction of the state sales tax by one half of a percent.
Malloy did not stay on the defensive on taxes for long, pointing out that Foley recently went two years without paying any federal or state income tax. Foley responded that he had not earned any income in those two years.
“There is something wrong with America when someone with tens and tens of millions of dollars pays no income taxes,” Malloy said.
Malloy was the first democrat elected governor in Connecticut since 1986.